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Chapter 25: A Fair Fight (1)

As soon as I declared myself the Black Fang, the blind girl’s face flushed with confusion.

She hesitated, mumbling to herself before finally speaking up.

“…What’s the Black Fang?”

A question all too natural.

Indeed, upon reflection, it would have been more peculiar if she had known about the Black Fang.

After all, she had been captured for use in dark magic research until now.

Wouldn’t it be stranger if a dark magician took the time to kindly explain the state of the empire to their intended sacrifice?

After a moment’s thought, I decided to explain.

“An organization intent on overthrowing the corrupt empire to create a world where everyone can live equally and happily… Probably.”

I provided an explanation, but even I wasn’t sure of its accuracy.

It was an organization not mentioned in the prequels or any spoilers. I had no way of knowing their true intentions.

Given their relentless terrorist acts against the empire, it was clear they harbored grievances.

Yet, they had never officially announced any slogan or specific objectives.

Only the leader of the Black Fang would truly know their real purpose.

And since I was unlikely to become acquainted with such a significant figure within the Black Fang, their objectives would remain a mystery.

But... it didn’t particularly matter to me.

The one certainty was their intent to dismantle the empire and instigate a revolution.

Considering the breadcrumbs laid out in the prequel, the final boss is likely tied to the empire, so a successful revolution would be to my benefit.

I simply hoped the Black Fang would continue their fervent activities.

“Anyway, the important thing is that I’ve come to save you.”

I said, gently patting the girl’s head.

My gaze naturally drifted to her neck, a sight one might expect.

1201.

Such a number was engraved on the girl’s neck.

I couldn’t help but frown, pondering the significance of that number.

‘How fervently must that bastard study?’

Operating such a black market, it’s no surprise their wealth is rotten with excess. But to kill thousands crosses a line, no matter how you see it.

I know it’s futile to expect morality from a dark magician, but surely there has to be a line somewhere.

Suddenly, a sense of justice surged within me.

A conviction that the wealth of such corrupt officials should be swiftly confiscated, a spirit befitting a righteous outlaw was awakening in me.

But before that...

“Hold on, let me see your ankle.”

I said this while examining the magical chains binding the children.

I had wondered why the cage door was left wide open. It seems they were overly confident in the security of these chains.

The spell was intricately crafted.

Impossible to open by brute force.

However, that was of no concern to me.

This was a spell I was familiar with.

‘I have mastered it.’

I’ve encountered it countless times across multiple playthroughs.

A tedious minigame.

It was lengthy and couldn’t be skipped, earning the ire of players, yet it remained unimproved.

Life is indeed unpredictable, just as the saying goes.

The premium edition I foolishly paid an extra 50,000 won for is now my lifeline,

and the dispel magic I’ve mastered through multiple playthroughs will continue to be useful.

I remember the spell’s formation clearly.

There was no need for a reverse-engineering process.

I might as well have memorized the solution.

A slight infusion of magic... and it’s done.

The magical chains dissolve. Soon, they vanish without a trace.

“Now that it’s undone, try moving.”

At my words, the girl’s face is painted with confusion.

She caresses her own ankles, seemingly unable to grasp that the real chains were gone.

Considering, it wasn’t unreasonable.

She must have been bound by those chains for so long, accustomed and resigned to a life of captivity.

It’s natural to be bewildered by sudden freedom.

In this moment,

there was only one thing left for me to do.

I took the girl’s hand.

And slowly, I led her out.

For the first time, the girl stepped outside the cage.

Initially confused by the situation, she then…

Simply let tears flow endlessly.

I had no idea what kind of consolation to offer her.

She looked no older than eight at a glance.

I couldn’t begin to comprehend what a child, who had awaited death in captivity, might feel.

Yet, I couldn’t just stand by and leave her like that.

So, I just held her hand tightly.

At least, to let her know she wasn’t alone anymore.

*****

I looked at the children I had rescued. There were five in total.

But, the only one I could properly communicate with was the blind girl. The others would nod in understanding to my words but couldn’t speak.

I could roughly guess why.

The numbers engraved on their necks.

The blind girl was the last in the sequence.

Something must have been done to the earlier children to break them.

‘Probably sacrificed to some demon.’

There was a similar character in the prequels.

It seemed as if their very right to speak had been taken away. They understand me, even if they can’t speak.

With that, I entered the deeper part of the warehouse with the five children.

If what we had seen so far was for dark magic research or slaves for experimentation, now we were met with all kinds of silver and gold coins.

If the previous area was used as a research space, this seemed to be the real storage area.

“Let’s pack as much as we can… and quickly escape from here!”

The blind girl, who had somehow regained her spirits, said this.

I hadn’t mentioned coming here to steal, but she was quite perceptive.

She realized that I wouldn’t leave until I obtained the item I was after.

Impressive that she’d offer to help without me even mentioning it.

“But I didn’t come here to steal gold.”

There are plenty of ways to make money.

After all, I plan to start a potion business with Miss Rubia.

Besides, when would we have the time to move all this heavy gold?

We had to select only the valuable items.

Artifacts... and above all, I needed to focus on retrieving the holy sword I saw earlier.

So, I was about to tell the girl that there was a specific item we were looking for when I suddenly realized something strange.

“How did you know there was gold here?”

Wasn’t she supposed to be blind?

When I asked, bewildered, the girl pondered for a moment before responding.

“What should I call it… Even though I can’t see, I can feel it, sort of like a sense.”

What a curious case.

A blind person seeing better than most, I never thought I’d encounter someone like this in reality, not just in fiction.

‘Could she be an important character from the original work?’

The thought crossed my mind, but that seemed unlikely.

The chances that the protagonist, having taken the same actions as me, had saved this child were slim.

In the original story, she likely died without ever appearing.

With that conclusion, I continued walking through the warehouse… then it hit me.

“Can you try to find something like a broken sword?”

If she could sense objects around her, maybe she could locate the holy sword as well?

Holding onto that hope, I asked the girl.

But strangely, the pink-haired girl remained silent.

…I could feel her hand trembling in mine.

Turning to look, her face was pale with terror. Learned fear was evident in her expression.

My face hardened naturally.

Understanding what was happening wasn’t difficult.

Footsteps grew louder.

An old man with white hair revealed himself before us.

No, to be precise, it wasn’t an old man.

The Archmage died at the hands of his disciple during the course of the prequel story. It was the disciple who had killed his own master and was now masquerading in the master’s form.

Of course, this didn’t mean he was weak.

An overwhelming magical power could be felt. It seems the numerous sacrifices had indeed had their effect.

Considering his progress since the prequel, it could only be described as a monumental advancement.

I had thought he’d be busy quelling terrorism by now, but it seemed something had gone awry.

But...

‘This might actually be a good thing.’

The man glared at me intensely.

I could feel the pressure he emanated.

Yet, I did not stop but moved towards him.

It wasn’t that I was certain of my victory that I did this. Even with my planned strategy, I guessed my chances of winning were only about fifty-fifty.

‘But, I can afford to lose, can’t I?’

It was only natural.

After all, I still wore the amulet given to me by Siel.

The moment I received even a scratch, those two would rush to my side through the shadows.

A sufficiently strong opponent.

Guaranteed safety.

In other words, it was the perfect opportunity to gain real combat experience.

“Who are you?”

The man asked, his eyes blazing with intensity.

However, there was no need to answer.

With a deep breath, I stabilized the flow of mana.

It was the beginning of a life-or-death battle, with only one life on the line.

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